Edibles. For many the word alone conjures up images of chocolate brownies and tales of awkward experiences. Self-regulating markets vary in labeling and serving size recommendations, concerned parents think they look too much like candy, and the government moves slowly on how to best regulate them in a legalized marketplace. It is not unrealistic to say that edibles have a bad reputation.
There is a growing wave of cannabis edibles available in both legal markets and illegal markets, from infused drinks to gourmet chocolates. Whether the government has approved them or not, consumers are using them for pain relief, better sleep and a relaxing alternative to drinking.
I have developed a healthy dose of respect for cannabis edibles. I cautiously and regularly consume them, usually for mild pain relief, to relax after a long day, and to beat insomnia. To insure a positive experience and the desired outcomes on my body and mind, I focus on my intention, the potency levels, my surroundings and the overall effect and combination of ingredients in each product.
I hope my life lessons will increase your likelihood of a good experience with cannabis edibles should you choose to consume them.
Decide on your intention
I was once knocked sideways by a beautifully crafted and well-labeled infused chocolate bar. I did not pay attention to how much I was eating. I was hungry, upset, tired and distracted. These were all the wrong emotions to have before consuming because I find that my cannabis use tends to amplify or make me process any feelings that I have, whether good and bad.
When the wave of THC hit me I was overwhelmed with incredible paranoia. I was in real physical pain, crying and groaning for more than a few hours. It was not my finest hour.
It was, however, the ultimate life lesson in edible preparedness that did not deter me from edibles but rather, made me more determined to get it right.
Now when I consider consuming an edible, I stop and ask myself, how do I want this to make me feel?
If I’m at home and it’s nearing bedtime, I’m seeking heaviness in my body to help me fall asleep. I will consume a low dose infused chocolate. I’m finding that a small amount of THC (2.5 to 5 milligrams) consumed before bed does help me fall and stay asleep.
When I’m out in a social setting, an edible is not an obvious choice yet through my experimentation with an extremely low dose, a microdose, I’ve been able to find my sweet spot where I feel the effects without too much of a high.
When I microdose an edible, I’m often looking for both mild pain relief (for sport recovery and headaches) and gentle mind relaxation to reduce social anxiety. In this scenario I have tried infused gummies and adding my own oil drops (or tincture) to a drink for a precise dose.
Pay attention to potency
I once saw an edible cookie with 1000 milligrams of THC and ran screaming in the opposite direction. High levels of THC may be desirable for seasoned consumers or chronic pain sufferers but I am a lightweight (sensitive to high levels of THC) and have learned my lesson the hard way.
To explain this in milligrams, I have some cannabis capsules (which can be compared to an edible in terms of how they’re absorbed) that are 2.7 milligrams of THC. When I take just one I can comfortably feel its effects on my mind and body, both targeting pain and boosting creativity.
A cannabis infused chocolate bar I bought is probably going to take me 6 months to finish because each one of the small squares is 10 milligrams. I’ll go even further to bite this in half, 5 milligrams being the maximum milligrams I am comfortable with when it comes to edibles.
I have learned to never let anyone’s jokes or surprise of my low potency preferences affect my decisions. If you are someone that regularly consumes moderate to high levels of THC with consistent comfort it’s good to remember that your preferred levels may be extremely uncomfortable for a novice consumer.
To add to the potency equation, the body is a wonderland and when metabolizing THC through the liver for elimination, it converts it to an even stronger psychoactive compound, a metabolite called 11-OH-THC which may increase the euphoric and physical effects felt by varying levels.
The process of conversion to this lesser known compound is much lower during inhalation which has helped me understand why the edible high feels significantly different than the euphoric high caused by smoking or vaporizing.
But what does all this science-speak really mean when choosing an edible? Cannabis edibles and their potency levels are going to have varying effects for each individual depending on multiple variables.
The most important guide I adhere to when trying a new type of edible for the first time is to start low and go slow.
This is my way to mitigate any negative effects of edibles and have the best experience possible when trying a product for the first time.
I don’t like every edible product that I sample, so having tried the smallest amount possible helps me observe the effects without feeling overwhelmed.
Respect the entourage effect
When consumed these compounds work together in an interactive synergy called the “entourage effect.” This means the plant’s individual therapeutic benefits are magnifying and expanding each other, so that the medicinal impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts.
How does this affect my edibles consumption? It makes me aware of the different outcomes and drives me to be more aware of the source and type of cannabis in the edible so I can better predict my experience.
One edible may have been made using a whole plant extraction, meaning all of the plants medicinal compounds made it into the edible. Another edible may have been made using a THC isolate extraction, meaning there are no other cannabis compounds for the THC to interact with. In this case, I would be making my decision based on THC predictions only.
Ironically, getting to know cannabis and cannabis edibles has involved a lot of math and science. For example, my preferred maximum dosage of 5mg of THC is often at a 1:1 ratio of both THC and CBD for additional calming and relaxing effects.
It’s important to note that when I’m adding CBD into the mix I consider any medications that I’m taking as preliminary science shows that CBD metabolization may impede prescription drug metabolism.
In addition, depending on whether I’m going for body pain relief, mind relaxation, or deeper sleep, I’m also looking for different natural terpenes to be present, such as linalool. Similar to an essential oil, linalool, which is also found in lavender, has calming and sedative properties.
Stay close to home and consume on a full stomach
I make sure to stay close to home, and the safety of my bed, avoiding driving or other activities that might be demanding on my faculties when experimenting with a new type of edible.
Cannabis edibles are predominately a method of consumption that I prefer in the evening, aiding body relaxation and deeper sleep.
The last thing I want is to discover is that I took more than the ideal dosage of an edible when I’m miles from home or a place to rest. Only once I’ve tried a product or recipe a few times, will I venture outside with it. This is usually when I’m microdosing an edible, which for me is consuming in the range of 1 to 3 milligrams of THC.
Another factor I pay attention to is avoiding eating an edible on an empty stomach. When I’ve eaten a decent meal, I find that the active compounds are absorbed at a slower and steadier rate and I am less likely to feel overwhelmed by the onset of the THC.
Some science supports the idea that when consuming an edible for both its THC and CBD value, you should consider eating a meal first. Eating beforehand may increase the bioavailability of both the THC and CBD.
This appears to be an especially important factor for CBD where absorption increases up to 4 times on a full stomach. In contrast, when consuming on a empty stomach, THC and its 11-OH-THC conversion stack together and are absorbed at a higher rate than the CBD present.
This difference is important to me as CBD has a way of smoothing out the high, making it pleasant and relaxing, reducing the likelihood of anxiety and paranoia that I have felt from edibles before. This is because when THC and CBD interact with each other, CBD can interfere with the desired, and sometimes not-so-desired effects of THC.
Be aware of the additional ingredients
I also make my cannabis edible decisions based on the other ingredients present. I am a health and fitness enthusiast so eating clean and eliminating sugar and artificial additives is important to me.
If I’m consuming an edible to help me sleep through the night then the last thing I want is to wake up with a sugar hangover, so this affects what I choose to consume.
A lot of cannabis edibles do have high potency levels and sugary ingredients. When I want to create my own healthy low dose edibles I use my cannabis oil drops and mix in a carefully measured dose into my favourite hemp seed energy ball recipe.
Another technique is to include my own cannabis infused butter or oil with dried cannabis. One such way to do this is through a stovetop extraction method but new tech gadgets like the beautiful Levo oil device make it automated and easy.
One final word of caution: Many edible products are delicious so it can sometimes be challenge to eat just your decided on dosage. It can feel counterintuitive to break an already small portion into four pieces and then control the urge to have one more bite or sip. Resist! That “one more bite” could be the difference between an amazing experience and an uncomfortable one.
Starting out with cannabis edibles is a personal experiment that requires you to own your decisions. Base your choices on your cannabis knowledge and your intention and measure them for continued success.
I hope my personal experiences can help increase your chances of a good experience with cannabis edibles and I am dedicated to sampling the market on this endeavor!